Shikoku ShakedownSeptember 12, 2013
Road 30 looked nice.
Road 30 was closed.
I’ve learned in Hokkaido, a road closed-sign usually only means the gate across the road is closed.
And the road will be perfectly rideable and beautifully quiet.
I was right.
A little hilly alright. But that’s no problem. I enjoy riding up hills.
It has been getting a bit warm lately.
Apparently it’s been the hottest summer on record.
ah… I knew I wasn’t exaggerating when saying it was hot and humid!
the temperature has been over 40 degrees when I was between Takamatsu and Koshi.
No wonder I never stopped sweating…
The place is beautiful. The roads quiet.
It is very difficult to sleep in a tent when sweat keeps pouring off you from all sides. I figured the best thing to do is camp as high as possible. And near water. It would be easy to get dehydrated.
I thought I was lucky when I came across an Onsen with a campground. I was told it is 200 yen to camp.
Not too bad. Although I can sleep in my own tent for free I didn’t mind the 2 dollar fee.
Until he mentioned it was another 1000 to use the tent!
I thought I miss-understood.
But no, he was serious. 200 for a person, 1000 for a tent!
So I told him to stuff it and pitched my tent right next to the campsite.
And rode over the pass and up the next one the following day.
A mean sign happily flashed at me from the side of the road telling me it’s now 37 degrees. I’ve had it hotter, I remember a time I rode my bicycle in a 47degree Australian summer. But it was dry then.
In the valleys where the roads, villages and people are it isn’t too easy to find my way.
But I love the buildings, especially the roofs around here.
I bought a very light quick drying shirt for only 300yen. And I don’t care it is actually mens underwear. It’s very comfortable.
Camping just before another pass the next day I was already sweating like crazy after cycling the 3km to the top. Lucky some body put a nice chair there so I could have a comfortable break.
with a beautiful swimming hole!
After a few days of no showers I decided a dip would be the best plan of attack. Just Glorious! Not that it helped much. I started sweating as soon as I got out. But I was rather lucky, as I found a swiss army knife right there in the gorge only days after I lost my own
Later that day I passed a swimming pool, so had another dip before heading up the last pass on this glorious road.
It’s the 193 on Shikoku, check it out!
Just over the top I tried finding a good place to camp but it was another 10km down the hill
when I came through this little village,
where this friendly fellow came over and gave me a beer.
And asked me my age. Before I came to Japan I had heard that it’s not polite to ask a lady her age. But every single man I’ve come across did ask. How odd.
I am 33.
From here I got back to the coast and back in extreme hot, humid weather.
I hit a wall.
Building a wall in a tunnel entrance is highly inconvenient. Not to mention painful.
Route 55 winding down the coast was, apart from the headwind, very nice.
Not too busy. Lovely views.
It was here I got onto the 88-temple pilgrim route.
I have known about this track since I cycled, and later walked, the Camino de Santiago in 2003.
I always wanted to come to Japan and hike this 1500km trail. It’s said that the 88 temples are founded by a famous monk Kukaki. Pilgrims have been walking this route for centuries, although modern-day pilgrims, recognisable by the white clothes, do it on bikes, by bus or motorbikes.
I don’t have enough time on Shikoku for the pilgrimage. So I just made up my own route.
Crossing the 88-temple route in different places.
I decided not to use my tent. Too hot. Instead I slept on a bench in a park. I wasn’t the only one. Parks seem to be a popular place for travellers of any kind to sleep. Other people like to come and set of fireworks. Not the most practical of combinations.
It was too windy for mosquito’s. That was the only good thing about it.
I did not have the best of sleeps so I was rather happy when I found another great sleeping spot on a beach the next evening.
Also here I had company. But after telling me he’s:” on the run from evil gangs of Korean’s and Chinese people, and they are watching us right now… it’s really very dangerous to talk to me and oh yes, I’m schizophrenic too…”
I wasn’t sure how great my sleep would be. So decided to move along a little.
It was dark already. So trying to find another good spot was a little tricky. When I asked at a taxi stand (I had seen a sign for camping somewhere) a friendly old man directed me to one of the pilgrim shelters.
He visited me in the morning and said something about buying bread (I think) So I hopped in his car and away we went.
After about 20 minutes and 4 villages later I started to wonder how far you have to drive for some bread. But he just wanted to show me his local cafe, where his friends were all having breakfast.
Considering it had started raining, I was wet and tired and had no idea where I was going. The lady at the tourist info was surprisingly unhelpful but I located a hostel where I wasn’t allowed inside ’till after 4.
It was only 12. So I stripped out of my wet clothes and had a wash at the little tap on the side of the building. I sat on the verandah using the wifi (gotta love that they put power points outside everywhere!)
And slept for two days. With a small break to check out the castle, discover it still rained and went back to bed.
(not many, but I didn’t know that then)
I loved it! The rivers, the hills the little old shacks, lots of statues,
and massive big trees.
I found a great camp spot and it was cool! The first good sleep in my tent for such a long time.
And the beautiful morning helped as well.
One of those days when you say “Good Morning” and really mean it.
The post-lady stopped to give me some sweet potatoes and soy milk, for strength she said.
I must’ve climbed a bit. 1300-something meter.
And stopped at a little shop that dubbed as the local pub,
a jolly bunch of people gave me drinks, ice-cream and cuddles (I wasn’t too keen on those last one, but one man in particular squeezed me nearly flat while the other took pictures. Shame I haven’t got one of those pictures. Would like to see my face actually)
A little bit down the track I saw a lot of owl statues.
And a gentleman making them.
In some villages they are very much used to tourist because of the Pilgrim trail. In others, not so. So much not so that when a tourist comes through, they take her photo, print and frame it and ask her to sign it before she leaves the village…
He asked where I was going to sleep.
When I said it was in my tent he told me to get in his car, there was a hotel about 20km down the road. But I didn’t want to hop in any cars. I way too much enjoyed the riding here. And a hotel is out of the question anyway.
He thought for a minute and then said he knew a great place by the river. So he locked up shop, jumped in his car and shot off. I guess I was meant to follow. So I cycled on down the road.
Just a couple of km later his car was parked and I saw him chatting to two older gentleman.
He introduced me to his friend who is 87 years old.
(He’s not being rude in this picture, it’s just that Japanese-thing)
They were enjoying the late afternoon sun and said I was more than welcome to pitch my tent next to the house.
But why wouldn’t I sleep inside? I found out this was his ‘spare’ house. His actual residence was just across the street and I was welcome to use the shower there.
Both gentleman were wearing these Japanese shoes. I wonder if they’re comfortable. lots of farmers, construction workers and fishermen wear those.
As I walked back he came along to show me the other floor. I hadn’t noticed there were two levels but build on a steep slope along the river there was a back entrance. This was what you might call the ‘man-shack‘. Japanese style. He had it fully kitted out as a karaoke-room and demonstrated it by singing me a song
The next day it was about 80km downhill with tailwinds and sunshine. Does that still count as cycling?
I was back on the pilgrim trail too, as I first met a lady on a bicycle. And shared a coffee. Then an American guy hiking it. He didn’t feel like a coffee because he had a long long way to go up the hill I just flew down.
I got back to the northern shore and only had the Sadamisaki-peninsula to ride down before my last ferry to Kyushu.
That goes up and down a lot and passes small villages,
where farming ladies tried out my bike. I’m sure it’s not as heavy as the work they do all day everyday,
And a nuclear power plant.
This was the last dry day before reaching Fukuoka on the other side of Kyushu.
A typhoon was on it’s way and drenched many towns all over southern Japan.
As I came over the last hill, rain pouring down, I saw a ferry in the port. So I shot down the mountain and onto the boat.
They saw me coming so held the gate open ’till I got through. The ferry might have left 2 minutes late because of me. That would be a first in Japan!
Once on I figured I better ask some one where we are going.
I checked my map earlier and it seemed there’s 3 routes leaving this small town.
I wasn’t quit on the right one, but it went only about 40km passed my prefered destination. An easy ride along the shore with even a nice bicycle road.
But it rained.
And it rained.
and then it rained a little bit more.
At least I found a dry place to camp.
In Fukuoka I had an old friend to catch up with.
Back in 2007 Kokoro was two year into his 6-year-round-the-world-bicycle-ride.
We met in Cappadocia where we spent a night camping in a cave together with Kurt, who’s still going strong,
And Scott. Who’s still on the road as well!
Koko continued his journey, met a lovely Japanese girl backpacking in Peru, got her a bicycle and that was that.
They have been married for 9 months now.
Koko just started a new job while she’s riding her bicycle around Europe. That’s the way!
I knew he worked late. But riding through the rain all day I found his apartment in the afternoon.
This lady spotted me hanging around the neighbourhood.
She decided I needed to come home with her, get out of those wet clothes, have a shower, a coffee,
meet the family,
have a meal.
And adopted me for the rest of my stay.
Which has been rather long.
And even though Koko works extreme long hours he did manage to get some time off and took me for a bicycle ride up Mt Aso.
Where I thought it verry funny they drew the best place to stand for a picture on the ground even though it isn’t really a very good place at all…
Now I will leave Japan tomorrow.
With a shiny new Chinese visa in my passport and a ferry to Korea!
See you there!